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Oral Histories

The SFA oral history program documents life stories from the American South. Collecting these stories, we honor the people whose labor defines the region.


Karl Takac Sr., Tuyet Takac, Karl Takac Jr., Laura Hebert-Takacs

Pho Tau Bay

As a young GI during the Vietnam War, Karl Takacs once ate seven bowls of pho tai — a noodle soup served with slices of rare beef — in a single sitting at one of Saigon’s fourteen Pho Tau Bay soup shops. Karl loved that bowl of broth and noodles, and he eventually fell in love with the shop-owner’s daughter, Tuyet. Karl and Tuyet married in 1973, and soon moved to the United States. Her father, Vu Van Y, lost every one of his restaurant locations by war’s end.  A few years later, they began selling her father’s pho recipe from a flea market concession stand across the river from New Orleans. The area’s uprooted and exiled Vietnamese residents, hungry for a taste of home, flocked there for pho. The family opened a restaurant in 1982: calling it Pho Tau Bay to honor the chain that Tuyet’s father once owned. Over the next two decades the family added five locations to their mini-empire, to become New Orleans’s favorite pho shop. Hurricane Katrina closed all but the original location. A decade later, 0n February 14, 2015, the Takacses closed that first location to make way for a Wal-Mart. But a new Pho Tau Bay is in the works, to open in the Central Business District by summer’s end, 2015.

Date of interview:

Rien Fertel

Rien Fertel

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The Southern Foodways Alliance drives a more progressive future by leading conversations that challenge existing constructs, shape perspectives, and foster meaningful discussions. We reconsider the past with research, scrutiny, and documentation.


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